Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Trouble in Tennessee

Last week we went to Tennessee for Thanksgiving. While we were driving, my niece Sara saw on-line that a bus of children were in an accident in Chattanooga. As the details unfolded, it appeared like it might have been on purpose. Now it is hard to tell. At the least, the driver had been complained about and six children are dead. Horrid.

At the end of the week, I drove to Chattanooga to meet my dear, dear friends that I wrote about last week. Melinda is a friend of my daughter Emily in Georgia. She was an amazing help when Emily had her time in the hospital. She has a fascinating life and history of travel and culture, but to me she seems like everything good that you think of when you picture a Southern mom. She is beautiful and charming, and she has raised five children. I haven’t met her son, but I’ve met her four daughters. Three of them came with her to meet me last week. Laura is 19, Mia is 17, and Lily is 14.

They say boys don’t mature as fast as girls do, but I can’t even believe that Lily is the same age as my Frankie. She is gorgeous like her mom and sisters. The other thing they all have in common is they are polite as hell. I love the “yes ma’am” thing they have going. When I was waiting at the table for them to arrive, Lily and Laura raced to see who would get to me first in the booth. They both hugged me hard and long and I just wanted to cry. I mean, I just adore these women. I can’t tell you how honored I am that they seem to adore me back.

The truth is, I was pretty sick that day. I kept trying to talk myself out of it because I was so damn excited to see them. Of course Melinda could not be fooled and she called me out during lunch. I had to admit I was fading. We decided she would drive my car to a drugstore, then to their hotel down the road. The girls would stay at the mall and shop, which is what we were supposed to be doing the whole day.

Melinda took excellent care of me and she acted like she didn’t mind one bit that her time with her girls and myself was turning into laying on beds chatting instead. We were surprised though when the girls got to the hotel shortly after we did. They told us an announcement came over the mall and they were locking down the stores. They were able to get out. It was a bit unnerving when the truck didn’t start right away but they got to the hotel safely. We had to wait for the story to break on-line and then on the news later. There was a lot of confusion, but the story we got was there was a shooting at the mall! We were in shock and scared out of our pants.

It turned out the incident was actually in the parking lot and thankfully only person was taken to a hospital. It was most likely a personal issue and not a mass anything. Not that it was a good day for that person, but until you get the correct information, it very well could have been another massive tragedy. The odd thing, is that before anything happened, Melinda and I were talking about Laura and what an amazing woman she is. She is a rock in a crisis. I told her that Laura is more mature and responsible than many women I know who are much, much older than she is. She is an old, wise soul. She just proved us right. Bad week for Chattanooga though. Holy cow.

And now there are those raging fires. I don’t mean this in a condescending way in any shape or form, but poor, poor Tennessee. That is a lot of hits in a couple of weeks. Let’s all keep the people there in our thoughts and prayers.

To Laura and her delightful girls: I owe you a REALLY fun time, hopefully very soon!


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Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving from Christiana, Tennessee.

Miracles do happen. The woman who works off her garage so she doesn’t have to drive has successfully driven 13 hours in two days to get to my sister’s house. Frankie and my niece Sara came with me. We were on the last few hours of the drive when we stopped to get gas and go through a drive-through at Burger King.

We were still in Indiana, but right on the border. I had gotten cut off driving several times that day so there was a lot of swearing coming out of my mouth, as well as comments about how dumb and thoughtless people are. I say politically incorrect things quite often at this stage in my life because my patience apparently got used up around age 46. A discussion about the South had come up. My traveling companions were both saying they were not impressed with the South in so many words. I was saying I love it down South. People seem much friendlier and polite. They were commenting on their accents and other stereotypes.

The drive-through line was very long so I had my niece jump out of the car to throw our bags of garbage in the trash. Next thing I know, this truck drives around me and cuts in line. I was like, “Oh no, you did-n’t” and Frankie quips with, “Yeah mom, people are so polite in the South.” The guy’s windows are open so Sara comes out with, “You know, there IS a line.” I drive up next to him and for some reason my mood snapped from irritation to playful. I put my fists up at the window and say, “Hey, you wanna fight for it?” He is flustered and says he thought my car had stalled or something. He said he had all day and I was more than welcome to drive up in front of him. I should have said, “So if you thought I was stalled you were going to drive by me rather than offer to help?” but instead I told him I was totally joking and that we had been in the car for days and it was fine that he went first. We kind of laughed and the moment was over. Or so we thought.

This is the point of the story when I was telling my other niece and she told me I was crazy. And lucky that guy didn’t have a gun in his truck.

We put our order in and then drove up to the window to pay, and the guy said in his cute Southern accent, “Y’all are all set. The guy ahead of you just paid for your lunch.” I couldn’t believe it. I beeped my horn and the guy in the truck waved. I waved back. He totally made my day. My week. I quipped back at Frankie, “HA! Southern people ARE polite!” I loved it.

This is also the point in the story where my other niece said, “You are supposed to pay it forward and pay for the person behind you.” And before age 46, I would have done that. But at 49, I didn’t even think about it. It was all about me. I reveled in it and was happy there are nice people out there and I was the recipient.

Tomorrow I am going to see my daughter Emily’s friends from Georgia. She is bringing her two daughters to come and see me. I thought of it when I said it was all about me. These three lovely women will boost my self-esteem enough to last for a month. They love me like crazy and it is so mutual. They say “yes ma’am” and they hug me constantly and tell me they love me over and over again. I am going to eat them up tomorrow. I just can’t wait. No patience required when I’m around them. I’ve always been a person with a very long line of critics in my life so these chicks that just unabashedly and unconditionally adore me are a breath of fresh air.

Even at 49 with a grumpy, menopausal mind, there is so much to be grateful for!


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“Lovely”

You’ve heard me say about a million times that I have an exceptionally supportive family and friend network. Today I want to focus on just one of my sisters. When Summer got very close to my family while Tim was sick, she gave my sister Janet a nickname- Lovely. And it has stuck.

Janet is eight years older than me. When I say I’m the baby in the family, I mean I’m really the baby. Janet is my closet sibling. My brother is ten years older, and my other sister is 18 years older. In many ways, I grew up like an only child because of the age difference.

If you have ever attended one of my lectures, my family almost always comes up. When I speak of Janet, I say she is one of the nicest people I have ever met. Nice may be a generic word, but it is truly fitting for her. She just doesn’t have a mean bone in her body. As we’ve gotten older, she will often tell me she isn’t nice anymore. She has gotten older and less pleasant. But Janet’s less pleasant, is still much nicer than most people are on their best day.

I learned that life wasn’t fair many times in my life. Probably the single most unfair episode our family ever experienced, was when Janet lost her oldest daughter. She was only ten years old and was killed in a car accident. She was the sweetest thing ever. She was feminine and loved wearing curls and frilly dresses. She loved to show affection. I have read many, many times about the loss of a child and the strain it puts on a family, especially a marriage. Statistics are very high for couples divorcing after such a loss. Not my sister. She and her husband are high school sweethearts. She isn’t just nice, she is a very, very strong woman.

When my mom was sick, the hospice staff told us that I was the voice in the family and Janet was the hands. I will never understand how she didn’t pass her nursing boards because Janet is an absolute natural. She would change Mom’s bandages and bathe her with such kindness and gentleness. One time she wasn’t available and I had to get Mom ready for the day. We both laughed hard because I was an utter failure. I had her nightgown twisted around her IV’s so badly we had to ask for help. Mom and I both knew that no one could replace Janet. Not even close.

Janet and her hubby are getting ready to make a huge, massive life-changing move. They are going to Tennessee to be with their beautiful grandson.

Lisa, Carson Patrick

Lisa, Carson Patrick

Can you blame her? I certainly can’t. We all knew someday they would go south to be with their daughter, but someday came sooner than anyone expected, including them. They know better than anyone that life is short and fleeting. Why miss out of that sweet boy’s most precious years?

I know it was a hard decision for her. After all, she is thoughtful. I know she worries about me. And she worries about Dad. She doesn’t have the capacity to be selfish. I’ve done my best to reassure her we will all be fine. What I love is that I know if I asked her to stay, she would. I mean, she actually truly would. That blows my mind. It’s not like she is retiring and moving to Florida. She and her husband will still have to work full-time and they will help care for their grandson too. But she would give up where her heart aches to be if she thought it was what was best for everyone else.

I can’t imagine the void I will feel in less than two weeks. I know that we didn’t see each other as much as we would like over the last decade. The hour and 20 minute drive got the best of both of us much too often. We will do our best to stay close, but we both know things won’t be the same.

So Lovely, my deepest best wishes for the new chapter in your life. You will be missed more than you can possibly know. You have been an outstanding example for me my entire life. Your kindness, thoughtfulness, integrity, gentleness and much, much more are something I will never stop aspiring to achieve. I love you! You truly embody your nickname.